Missouri Chamber weighs in on court case that could greatly expand liability for employers in workers’ compensation cases

 

JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has filed an amicus brief in support of the employer’s position in the case of Templemire v. W&M Welding, currently before the Missouri Supreme Court.  In the case, Templemire claims he was fired because of his filing of a workers’ compensation claim, while the company claims he was fired for failing to complete an assigned work task.  At trial and on appeal, the courts found that Templemire could not receive compensation for his wrongful termination claim because his workers’ compensation claim was not the “exclusive” reason for which he was fired.  The Missouri Chamber supports the position of both the Circuit Court and the Court of Appeals that “exclusive factor” is the appropriate standard used in workers’ compensation retaliatory claims.

“Nearly every Missouri employer has an interest in this case,” said Alex Curchin, Missouri Chamber general counsel and director of governmental affairs.  “The case has the potential to greatly increase employer liability by lowering the standard of proof necessary for prevailing in a wrongful termination case against an employer.”

 

In January 2006, Templemire was severely injured when a beam fell and crushed his foot while on the job. After surgery, he received benefits from his workers’ compensation claim and was able to go back to work under certain restrictions, including resting his foot for 15 minutes out of every hour while at work.  In November 2006, Templemire was fired for insubordination for failing to complete a task that had been given to him by his supervisor. He claimed he was resting while waiting to complete his task.  Templemire filed the lawsuit against W&M Welding and the trial court ruled for his employer. They found that his workers’ compensation claim was not the exclusive factor in his termination.

“If the Supreme Court reverses the law regarding exclusive factor, this precedent would have profound impact on employers in this state by raising the costs associated with terminating employees,” said Curchin.  “We filed our brief so that it is clear to the Supreme Court that Missouri’s business community supports the current standards set in the law.”

The Missouri Chamber brief also advises that if the Supreme Court chooses to abandon the “exclusive factor” standard that it adopts a “motivating” instead of “contributing” factor standard.

“Adopting a “contributing” standard would be a stark change to our status as an employment-at-will state,” Curchin said.

The Missouri Supreme Court is expected to hear the case later this year.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.mochamber.com) was founded in 1923 and is the largest business organization in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers, providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians.

 

 

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